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Do You Need An Epidural? It Depends On How You Define "Need"

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If you're pregnant, the topic of whether or not you will get an epidural during childbirth is bound to come up. Some soon-to-be moms automatically know they want to labor sans medication, others want all the medication avialble to them, and some women choose to wait and see how labor and delivery goes before making a decision one way or the other. If you're in the process of making your birth plan or considering your options for pain management during labor, it's normal to ask yourself, "Well, do you need an epidural?" The answer, it seems, is up to you and almost entirely dependent on how you define the word "need."

According to What To Expect, about 2/3 of laboring women in the United States choose to get an epidural — an anesthetic injected into the space next to their spine during labor — with the hopes of enjoying a pain-free birth experience. The procedure has a few risks, but also some benefits, namely the sweet pain relief experienced by most people who get one. One study published in the Spanish Journal of Anesthesiology and Critical Care reported that over 90 percent of the moms they surveyed were satisfied with their epidurals and would recommend one to other moms.

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Like many other choices you have to make regarding pregnancy and parenting in general, the choice to get an epidural during labor is entirely personal. Luckily, and even if your birth plan says you don't want any medication administered during childbirth, you can totally change your mind if labor gets too intense or painful. That is, of course, if an anesthesiologist is available to administer one. According to Baby Center, while doctors and hospitals used to limit when laboring moms-to-be could get an epidural, there really is no reason you can't get an epidural in early labor, before you are in much pain at all, or really, anytime before your baby starts crowning.

While most talk of epidurals focuses on their potential risks, according to Dr. Eugene Smetannikov, anesthesiologist and author of the book The Truth About Labor Epidural, epidurals also have some lesser known benefits. According to his website, allaboutepidural.com, research shows that in addition to reducing pain, epidurals reduce stress for laboring moms and their babies, which can result in better health outcomes overall.

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Unfortunately, epidurals are not recommended for every pregnant woman that may want one. According to BabyCenter, if you have low blood pressure, certain bleeding disorders or infections, are allergic to anesthetics, or are taking blood thinners, you won't be able to get an epidural.

For most people, however, the choice to get or not get an epidural is entirely personal and up to the woman in labor and her team of health care professionals.